Gregory J. Heym
Executive Vice President, Chief Economist
By MAGGIE HAWRYLUK
You could call him an economist, an innovator, a spokesperson or even a rock star, but Terra Holdings' Gregory Heym is just happy knowing that he's fulfilling his main responsibility — making brokers' jobs easier.
"We love to give brokers the tools they need, because in this day in age you need information," the executive vice president and chief economist for Terra Holdings, the parent company to Brown Harris Stevens and Halstead Property, said. "The real value we can add is the analysis. The future is more in the analysis of the data."
Since being recruited from the Real Estate Board of New York by William Zeckendorf, Terra Holdings owner and co-chair, to help build an in-house research firm, Heym took the challenge and ran with it, never looking back.
Though, the initial offer did catch him off guard.
"At first I didn't know why he was calling," he recalled of the day in 2003. "You usually don't get calls from people that high up without expecting it."
But with strong ties with Diane Ramirez, president of Halstead Property, and Hall Willkie, president of Brown Harris Stevens, who are actively involved with REBNY, and his major responsibility at REBNY of writing the co-op and condo market reports, the position fit Heym like a glove. So he jumped for the opportunity he never saw coming.
"I always thought I'd end up at a commercial firm because commercial firms are more research heavy," he said. "But it was a great opportunity; the chance to start up my own thing was really exciting."
So after eight years at REBNY with responsibilities ranging from the co-op, condo and office reports, analyzing and tracking state legislation that could affect the industry and developing and maintaining the Web site, Heym joined Terra Holdings to make sense of the data they had been gathering. Up until Heym took over
as chief economist, Halstead Property, Brown Harris Stevens and Vanderbilt Appraisal all compiled and analyzed their data separately.
"The goal was to take these three data sources, put them into one central location and then allow everyone to share it," he said of the system that is now called ValuExchange. "The idea was appealing: give brokers the best data, the most data and the highest quality data, and you get an edge up from everyone else."
So while the researchers comb through public listings in all of Terra Holdings' markets and verify information on a property on a daily basis, Heym is analyzing
this information to disseminate to the managers, brokers and general public — which adds up to more than 30 market reports per year.
And who better to discuss these results with the various media outlets that have become entranced by the real estate market than the author?
That's why when the owners of Terra Holdings decided to create an in-house communications department, Heym was on the top of their list.
"It's fun to do," he said. "It seemed natural because I had a lot of press contacts, I had dealt with the press and I was comfortable on camera."
In addition to overseeing the research and analysis of Terra Holdings' market data, heading the communications department and participating on the New York City Economic Advisory Panel, Heym still finds time to continue his participation with REBNY. When he's not teaching classes and speaking at seminars for Halstead Property and Brown Harris Stevens brokers, he is also one of the instructors for the NY Residential Specialist designation.
"The class is called Real Estate Macroeconomics, and it has been a great experience," he said. "After working eight years at REBNY, it's fun to go back and help teach a class there."
And after working long hours making sense of the numbers that have become integral in understanding the residential market, Heym looks to music as a way to stretch his creative side. While he admits he hasn't picked up his trumpet in 16 years — he attended Saint John's University, earning a bachelor's degree
in economics, on a music scholarship — Heym is now playing guitar in a band he and fellow Terra Holdings employees formed for fun a few years back.
"We get together every few weeks or months and get into the studio and just jam," he said. "The name of the band is No Bubble which is pretty much a take of what people were saying about the market. We don't take ourselves that seriously, we're not trying to relive our rock dreams."
And for the serious role he plays in New York's real estate story, Heym takes in all stride, making a point to balance work with fun, noting that his main priority is watching his 1-year-old son grow.
But while it seems that he does it all, Heym said he's thankful that it's all within the residential realm.
"It's nice to have a challenge and be able to say you did it," Heym said. "The good thing is that when you narrow your focus, you become really skilled at those few things."
Wednesday, August 27, 2008